Veterans Voices of Canada continue their journey to honour and document stories of Canadian veterans for history and education, with added support from Indigenous Elders Darryl Lickers and Lynn Jonasson to achieve their goals. Veterans Voices of Canada honoured the two veterans with the National Indigenous flag Nov. 23.
“We felt we wanted to present them with these National Indigenous flags that flew at our tribute for several reasons; They are the first to represent us in our organization in each of their ways, and they’ve shown full support for our organization and what we strive to do from our first meeting,” said Al Cameron, founder of Veterans Voices of Canada.
Darryl Lickers recently started serving as the first Indigenous Liaison for Veterans Voices of Canada and Lynn Jonasson is the first Elder to perform the Smudge Ceremony during this year’s Flags of Remembrance Opening Ceremony Sept. 11.
“The ceremony is used for purification. It’s a way to be in harmony with all creation, the animals, the plants, insects, birds, and not only that but also our ancestors. When we do a Smudging Ceremony, we create a sacred space,” said Jonasson.
Cameron said Lickers will assist the organization with initiatives involving Indigenous populations across the nation. He interviewed Lickers on his military experiences last year.
“When we travel to do interviews, there is certain protocol that we have to be aware of and Lickers is going to make us aware of that and help us with Flags or Remembrance, getting people to come forward from different communities to be a part of what we are doing across Canada. He is going to be an instrumental part in helping us get the veteran interviews that we need. We need to get more input from the Indigenous communities as far as what the veterans did for us and the sacrifices they made. That’s going to be a big part of what he does for Veteran Voices of Canada, and it’s all volunteer-based,” said Cameron.
Lickers, who served the Canadian Armed Forces for 25 years, said, “Even as a veteran, we still have that comradery. It doesn’t matter how many years have passed, we are all still brothers and we have those sisters that have served too. They are our brother and sisters in arms.”
Lickers hopes every veteran story is told, and their sacrifices honoured instead of being forgotten.
“When I joined the forces, if an Indigenous man or woman joined the military, they had to give up their treaty rights and their status. So, when they came back a lot of them were in kind of a no-mans-land because they weren’t really part of the reserve anymore and they weren’t even a part of the rest of the society.
A lot of people don’t know that Indigenous veterans had to give up their rights to serve. Back in the first and second World Wars, they weren’t really deemed citizens of Canada and so a lot of them served just because they honoured their land.
“To have their stories told is to say that we served when we didn’t have to serve, we served because we wanted to serve.
“I hope people would see that it’s time those honours and recognitions are given to the veterans who made those sacrifices. And all of the Indigenous women that made the sacrifice of joining the military in those days, during the time of war, they don’t get that recognition, almost like the forgotten soldiers,” Lickers concluded.